With Philippe Coutinho heading back to Barcelona and with no hope of a future at the Nou Camp, speculation has risen over a possible, highly unlikely return to Liverpool.
The Reds secured an exceptional deal in agreeing a £142 million fee with Barca when Coutinho left Merseyside in 2018, and things have gone awry for the Brazilian since.
He has made 76 appearances for the Spanish side, scoring 21 goals and laying on 11 assists, but lost his place to Antoine Griezmann and subsequently joined Bayern Munich on loan last summer.
It has been promising for Coutinho in Germany, with nine goals and eight assists in 32 appearances, but the finances involved have deterred Bayern from a permanent deal.
Coutinho will return to Barca this summer, with Bayern not taken up their €120 million option, and he will not be part of Quique Setien’s squad, with his agent, Kia Joorabchian, actively touting him to clubs across Europe.
One of those appears to be Liverpool, with journalist Kevin Palmer claiming on Sunday that Coutinho has made a “personal plea to Jurgen Klopp” to secure a move back to Anfield, with Joorabchian ‘confirming’ his desire.
The obvious red flag here is the dubious source, with the story printed in Irish paper the Sunday World, but regardless many fans have latched onto the rumour:
It might just be me, but I'm inclined to believe that Coutinho really would do whatever is necessary in an attempt to force a return to Liverpool. He's learnt that the grass isn't greener.
— Matt (@FalseFMatt) June 13, 2020
Can’t believe Courinho is gonna be our Coutinho replacement
— Carson* (@WC_LFC_Torres) June 13, 2020
I just wanna see Coutinho cut in off the left and smack one in the top bins for Liverpool. Is that too much to ask for?
— Ahmed (@ahmedIfc) June 14, 2020
Palmer presents a favourable situation in many ways: he claims Coutinho would be willing to “take a pay cut to seal his return,” and Liverpool would be re-signing a player familiar with the system and able to add another top-level option in attack.
But it is little more than fantasy at this stage, as despite Klopp clearly still being fond of his old No. 10, the finances of a potential deal would make it almost impossible.
That is the word The Athletic’s Simon Hughes used recently when discussing the possibility of Coutinho heading back to Merseyside, ruling out any chance of a reunion.
Barcelona still owe Liverpool a significant portion of the £142 million fee agreed two-and-a-half years ago, and the 28-year-old is earning upwards of £200,000 at the Nou Camp.
Though the Telegraph recently claimed Barca are willing to subsidize his wages to smooth over any permanent, swap or loan deal, it would take an unprecedented offer for the Reds to accept.
Mohamed Salah is the club’s current highest earner on £200,000 a week, and it can even be argued that, unlike the Egyptian King, Coutinho would not even be a guaranteed starter if he returned to Liverpool.
Klopp’s side has evolved without him, becoming a more well-rounded unit, less brittle in defence—owing largely to the signings of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, effectively paid for by Barca—and more dominant in attack.
To re-sign Coutinho would require a large-scale restructuring, and there is little room for manoeuvre as the decision to pull out of a £50 million deal for Timo Werner proved.
So unless Barca pull out all the stops to accommodate Liverpool, any rumours of a Coutinho return can be ignored.